By: Steve Duffy
Let’s be real, there is no doubt that the recent past has introduced many opportunities to encounter fear in one form or another. Reflect back on 2020 alone and there are common experiences that we all relate to; Covid and all that came with it, civil unrest, political division, the Derecho, family crisis in one form or another, strains in relationships, etc. Many of these themes are still present in our lives as we have traveled through 2021 so far. With all of those remembrances, they have also been accompanied with forms of fear such as worry, anxiety, or even panic.
With that, I am grateful that God speaks directly to the topic of fear frequently in His word helping us to clarify what is healthy and unhealthy, what is worship unto Him and what is sinful. On one hand there is a healthy fear, a reverence for God as the Creator that results in a big view of God and small view of His creation. This type of fear nurtures a worshipful communion with God and produces humility, deepening faith (trust), confidence, the fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22, etc. On the other hand in the reality of our daily living we also often encounter an unhealthy and sinful fear, making something/someone (the creation) other than God seem big, resulting in a small view of God. This type of fear fixates on the creation rather than God Himself, breaks fellowship with God, produces a shaky faith, frequent worry/anxiety, and a distrust of God and others.
We need not be ashamed or condemned for stepping into the space of sinful fear. In our humanity, it will happen. The more important question is, what will you do in response to those moments? Will you nurture the unhealthy fears and build patterns of turning to something/someone else to chase after an unattainable answer or will you turn to Christ relying on the Spirit of God, the Word of God and the people of God to help you fix your eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of your faith? This is the hope we have in the gospel of Jesus Christ, that sinful fear need not master us, but because He has overcome sin and death through the resurrection, then we too can do the same! Where is your trust today, in this moment, for the things that are seemingly bigger than God right now in your life?
Digging deeper into Fear
What scripture says:
- Proverbs 1:7 & Proverbs 9:10 – a healthy fear of the Lord is foundational to living!
- Matthew 6:19-34 – a big view of creation and seeking our kingdom vs a big view of God and seeking His kingdom
- Psalm 56 – engaging in the realities of life, the tension between fear and faith
- Matthew 6:9-13 – a model for prayer, acknowledging who God is and 6 areas of focus when we petition Him (including the topic of fear)
- Do a keyword search on “fear not” or “not fear”, notice instances of healthy fear, what themes do you notice about the object of the fear being spoken of? (e.g., what attribute of God is in view related to the passage?)
- Do a keyword search on “fear not” or “not fear”, notice instances of sinful fear, what themes do you notice about the object of the fear being spoken of? (e.g., look for the something/someone other than God that is the focus of the fear)
More resources that speak about Fear:
- READ one or more of the blogs on the CCEF website that best fits your interest or the current focus of the fears you are dealing with
- LISTEN to this podcast titled “Anxiety: Sin, Disorder, or Both?” by John Piper
- WATCH this video titled “Biblical Comfort for the Panic-Stricken Lies of Fear and Worry” by Ed Welch
- READ this article titled “Read the Bible to Your Anxiety” by John Piper
- PARTICIPATE in the “Praying the Names and Attributes of God” exercise
- Consider purchasing and reading the following books:
- Booklet: “Fear: Breaking Its Grip” by Lou Priolo *Stonebridge has some copies available. Call, email or stop by to claim yours. Suggested donation $4*
- Booklet: “Anxiety: Anatomy and Cure” by Robert W. Kellemen *Stonebridge has some copies available. Call, email or stop by to claim yours. Suggested donation of $5*
- Booklet: “Anxiety and Panic Attacks: Trusting God When You’re Afraid” by Jocelny Wallace
- Booklet: “Anger, Anxiety, and Fear: A Biblical Perspective” by Stuart Scott
- Booklet: “Social Anxiety: Being Comfortable in Your Own Skin” by Amy Baker
- Booklet: “PTSD: Healing for Bad Memories” by Timothy Lane
- Booklet: “You Can Trust God” by Jerry Bridges
- Book: “When People are Big and God is Small: Overcoming Peer Pressure, Codependency, and the Fear of Man” by Ed Welch
- Book: “Trusting God – Even When Life Hurts” by Jerry Bridges
- Book: “Overcoming Fear, Worry and Anxiety” Elyse Fitzpatrick
Application and exercise:
- Be reminded, as His children (those who have put their faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross & resurrection for the forgiveness of sins), the Lord is with you and purposes all encounters of sinful fear to turn your eyes upon Him, for His glory and your good! (Romans 5:1-11, Romans 8:26-30, James 1:2-4, Matthew 28:18-20).
- Put it into practice:
- Pray & make a List: Ask the Holy Spirit to show you what or who in your life seems bigger than God right now, these are likely the objects of sinful fear. (Psalm 139:23-24) Make a list (1st column) of these items, one after another, in a row on paper or electronic form.
- Prayerfully evaluate & confess: Next to each item in the previous list, through your own searching of God’s Word and/or the counsel of others, make another list (2nd column) of related truths with verses that would speak differently about the listed item. Verses that make God bigger than the listed item. As you review the 2 lists, each item side by side, choose 1 item in the list that seems to be most present in your life today to zoom in on, to confront. Take this specific item to the Lord in prayer, acknowledge the sinful fear in all the detail that the Holy Spirit brings to remembrance. (Psalm 51:3-6, 1 John 1:5-10)
- Repent & believe: Ask the Lord to strengthen you to turn away (put off) from any thinking/actions that nurture what you listed in the 1st column, for discernment/wisdom to put to death anything in you that is sinful and compels you toward the 1st column. Ask the Lord to strengthen you to turn toward (put on) thinking/actions that nurture the 2nd column. (Colossian 3:1-17)
- Journey together: What fellow Christian might you share the previous information with, in a small group or 1-1 relationship? Make this a community effort as this is God’s design for His people! Don’t go at it alone! Prayer, accountability and encouragement from other brothers/sisters in Christ is a critical component to grow.
- Memorize & meditate on key verses related to the area of change that God is taking you through. This will be a key offensive weapon that the Spirit will bring to remembrance as a help to overcome future encounters of sinful fear so that the specific something/someone remains “small” in comparison to our big God!
- Pick an attribute of God related to the area of change that God is taking you through using the resource “Praying the Names and Attributes of God”. With that, commit the associated verse to memory also.
- Worship! With the key verses mentioned, identify a worship song that you can listen to frequently that may emphasize the same truths. It is amazing how worshipful music is used to keep our eyes fixed on our Lord in times when battling sinful fear.
Bible Reading Plans: